Previous to the formation of the United Grand lodge of England, in 1813, few Lodges were named as they are to-day, but were distinguished by a number and place of meeting. It frequently occurred on a new lodge being formed, instead of it receiving a number and place in the Grand Lodge register, which it should have done, it was given the warrant of an older lodge which had lapsed. Thus the Royal Sussex Lodge, the warrant of which is dated 23rd January, 1812, under the Atholl constitution, received the number 49 which was that of a Lodge warranted 30th March, 1756 to meet at the Kings Head, Drury Lane, London. At the numbering of the Lodges in 1814, the Lodge became No.69.
The first traceable meeting was held at the Bladud’s Head Inn, Ladymead in February, 1812; subsequent meetings being held in a number of other Inns in the City of Bath.
To the brethren of the Royal Sussex Lodge:
The name which I have permitted your Lodge to assume gives it an additional interest to my solicitude, and therefore requires me expressing the hope that, as it is the first in this instance, so may I trust that by your Masonic conduct you will always preserve and maintain the credit of the same, as an example to all others.
Masonry is the most sublime and perfect institution that ever was formed for the advancement and happiness and general good to mankind, teaching us the useful, wise and instructive doctrines upon which alone happiness is founded, and the duties we owe to our neighbour never to injure him in any one situation.
Signed by His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, The Grand Master.
The following entry appears:A letter was observed to be forwarded to His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, returning thanks for the honour he did us in acceding to our wishes and allowing us to take upon us the title of “Royal Sussex Lodge”
The meeting was at the Greyhound Inn, at the corner of High Street and Bridge Street, and there the Lodge was to meet for some years. The brethren about this time were evidently very enthusiastic, for in the year 1818, nine emergency meetings were held in addition to the ordinary monthly ones throughout the year, together with weekly meetings in the months of July and August.
At the request of a majority of the brethren then present, the W.M. consented to a private exhibition of Masonic emblems, and the Lodge room was visited by about 300 of the Beauty and Fashion prior to the opening of the Lodge.
It will be readily appreciated that the holding of Lodges in various Inns cannot be altogether satisfactory, and no doubt this reason prompted the building of the first Masonic Hall in the City, known as York Hall, now the Friends Meeting House.
The three lodges concerned in the building of this hall were the Royal Cumberland, the Royal York, and the Lodge of Virtue. The Royal Sussex Lodge did not directly participate, and its headquarters remained at the Greyhound Inn.
The Junior Deacon was fined 1/-d. for non-attendance.
Resolved to leave the Greyhound Inn in consequence of insults received, and to move to the Masonic Hall, York Street, at a rental of £14. 0. 0. p.a. The first meeting took place in September 1826.
Bylaws agreed in open Lodge include:
(i) Meetings to be held at Masonic Hall, York Street.
(ii) Scales of fines for non attendance of officers.
(iii) Profound silence to be observed in the Lodge.
(iv) Stewards to observe the greatest economy concerning refreshments.
(v) Visitors not to be admitted during private business etc. etc.
It was resolved that the W.M. should meet the W.Ms. of Royal Cumberland Lodge, and the Lodge of Honour and arrange more convenient days of meeting to enable members of different Lodges to visit each other.
Due to the York Street Hall being advertised for sale, it was resolved to move to the White Lion Inn. 7/6d. to be charged per evening and 7/6d. to be spent on refreshments, including fire, etc. The first meeting took place in October 1831.
A letter received from Grand Lodge changing the number from 69 to 61.
It was reported that a lease had been entered into with Mr. Goodridge for the new Masonic Hall in the Corridor, at a rental of £40.0.0 p.a., which was to be divided as follows:
Royal Cumberland – £12. 0. 0.
Royal Sussex – £8. 0. 0.
Lodge of Honour – £20. 0. 0.
Each Lodge to pay for its own consumption of gas.
By 1843, however, the three Lodges had agreed to pay £10 each.
Meeting held at the Christopher Hotel.
First printed Lodge summons issued.
Two engineers initiated, whose names were to become well known in the City, namely Mr. Stothert and Mr. Pitt.
Resolved that “members of Her Majesty’s Services, or those in the militia or Volunteer Corps attending this Lodge in uniform be requested to leave their arms in the care of the Tyler in the ante room”.
The Lodge notice for the first time inserted in the minute book; a custom continued since this date.
UNITED GRAND LODGE OF ANTIENT, FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS OF ENGLAND
THE R. HON. THE EARL OF ZETLAND THE MOST WORSHIPFUL GRAND MASTER.
The G.L. having resolved that the number of all Lodges in the Register shall be brought forward in regular succession by filling up those numbers which have become vacant within the voluntary surrender of warrants or by the erasure of Lodges.
I have the honour to inform you that your Lodge which has hitherto been known and distinguished as No. 61 will henceforth stand in the Register of G.L. as No. 53 and this latter number you are to refer to in all returns and communications addressed to the G.L.
By Order of W.B. Gray Clarke, Grand Secretary,
Freemasons Hall, London.
6th July, 1863:
Letter from the Grand Secretary that in renumbering the Lodges, the Royal Sussex would in future be known as No. 53 instead of 61.
It was resolved to commence a charity fund to relieve brethren in distress.
Bro. R. Pitt gave an interesting account of a visit to a Lodge in Berlin, and the fraternal manner in which he had been received.
A committee to be appointed to consider the expediency of seeking fresh accommodation and in November 1865 it was resolved to build a new hall.
A number of alternative proposals were considered but rejected in favour of the purchase of the present building in Old Orchard Street. The site was originally in the orchard of a Benedictine Abbey but prior to purchase it was a Roman Catholic Church but from 1750 to 1805 the first Theatre Royal in the provinces. Where many famous actors and actresses including Sarah Siddons, graced the boards. .
The premises consisted of a chapel and two houses, freehold but subject to a ground rent of £47. 3. 0., which were offered by the vendors for the small sum of £150, but subject to two conditions, namely:
(i) That the church should be allowed to retain undisturbed possession of the vaults below, with the right of access thereto
by a separate entrance, and
(ii) That the chapel itself should never be used for the purposes of amusement and entertainment permitting dancing.
The new Masonic Hall was consecrated by Bro. Rev. C.R. Davy, W.M. of the Royal Sussex Lodge, with full Masonic ceremony. There were forty-nine members and nearly seventy visitors present. Two brethren were passed to the second degree and two were raised tot the third degree. After which Bro. William Gibbs was installed Worshipful Master and Bro. W. Smith was re-elected Treasurer.
It is of interest to note, that the total expenditure on the hall and adjoining houses, which were at that time let off, was then £636. 8. 8.
The chief alterations to the chapel were the removal of the pews, which were used to provide the screens to be seen on each side in order to lessen the width of the building, and the portioning off of the space under the gallery at the west end to form an ante room.
Bro. Stothert was installed as W.M. During his year of office the minutes report that the lodge was out of debt and that the £636. 8. 8. had been fully paid off.
sub-tenancies were offered to:
The Royal Cumberland Lodge No. 41 and its Royal Arch Chapter.
The Lodge of Honour No. 379
The Bladud Encampment of Knights Templar. No. 40
The minutes record a list of gifts from various brethren to the estimated value of £95, towards the fitting up of the Lodge.
The Lodge building fund was first established, a wise move which was to prove of immense value in later years.
The Lodge banner presented by 21 Past Masters.
Bro. Watts suggested it would be advisable €œthat the Emulation working should be adopted in the Lodge, instead of the present working, which is uncertain.€ The W.M. agreed, and said that he understood that the Lodge professed to work by the Emulation.
But even today the brethren appreciate that small differences which have been accepted for very many years have become traditional in this Lodge and it is hoped that they will remain so.
Organ Music could not have been heard in the ceremonies until Bro. Cuffe Adams presented the Lodge with the organ he had purchased from the Bath College at the time of its closing.
Resolved to convey the Masonic Hall to Trustees for the Royal Sussex and Royal Cumberland Lodge, and subsequently the Chapel gallery at the west end was removed and the present Dining Room constructed at a cost of something over £500, which cost was met by the Lodge building fund, supplemented by special contributions.
In 1891 the reredos panel, which originally were indifferent representations of Faith, Hope and Charity, were repainted by John Barker in their present form, representing Solomon, King of Israel, Hirem, King of Tyre, and Hiram Abiff.
In 1896 the William Hoare painting of the Pool of Bethesda, which previously hung in the Octagon Chapel, was presented to the Trustees by Bro. Radway, and it still occupies its place of honour above the Senior Warden’s chair. In 1904 electric lighting was installed
In 1908 the Lodge was honoured by the appointment of R.W. Bro Col Long as the Provincial Grand Master of Somerset.
In 1912 a Centenary Warrant was issued by Grand Lodge.
In the Great War the Lodge saw 13 of the brethren enlist in 1914, sadly two failed to return.
The years 1923 and 1925 saw further alterations and repairs carried out, bringing the building substantially into its present state. The Caretaker’s quarters were constructed and secondly the museum and library were established on the upper floors.
The declaration of the Second World War in 1939 immediately influenced Lodge activities. Meetings were held on Saturday afternoons and the ‘supper’ cost the sum of five shillings.
On the nights of April 25th and 26th 1942 enemy planes bombed Bath “ causing extensive damage to the Masonic Hall. A lot of valuable glass and china were lost through blast damage and in the confusion that followed the raids the Warrant, the Tyler’s Sword, and numerous small items including silver snuff boxes mysteriously disappeared. Of the missing items only the Warrant has since been recovered and that from the coal cellar of all places.
In order that Lodge meetings could continue temporary repairs were effected pending the end of the war.
The Keynsham Temple became our temporary venue for meetings in order that war damage repairs could be undertaken. Because of petrol rationing transport was made available a coach was organised to leave North parade at 5.45 pm and returned at approximately 9.30 pm.
The repairs were completed at a cost of £4,500 15s. 2d. and in 1950 we returned to our Old Orchard Street abode.
1956 Inauguration of the Annual Ladies Festival this tradition has been continued to this day. This encounter was the first since 1818 when we had the exhibition of regalia.
1957 Brought the return of petrol rationing and numerous apologies for lateness are recorded in minutes of the period.
1958 It was agree that the Lodge in future would meet 7 times a year instead of 8. The first Almoner was appointed.
Floods caused the Installation meeting in December to be postponed.
1968 The Chaplain, W.Bro. Fred Tranter, marked his 27 Masonic years with the gift of one firing glass for each of those years.
1972 Since the war, and the loss of the Tyler’s sword, successive holders of this office have been frustrated by having to beg or borrow swords from other Lodges. The Tyler, Bro. J Legg, finally solved the problem by kindly donating a handsome antique sword, the origin of which was contemporary with the founding of the Lodge.
1973 One of our brethren, WB Sidney Smith met a French brother, Jacques Lycett at the British Aircraft Corporation which resulted in the first visit from Versailles of ˜La Loge La Delta 134. Fraternal visits large and small have taken place ever since. Often accompanied by brethren of other lodges from Bath and the surrounding area. The R.Wor. Bro. Kenneth Kinnersley, Provincial Grand Master for Somerset often accompanied us on these visits. The visits were subsequently organised by our own Bro Robert James Davies and Jean Boissiere of the Loge La Delta.
R.Wor. Bro. Kenneth Kinnersley, Provincial Grand Master for Somerset was made an honorary member of the Lodge. In May the Loge La Delta 134 visited again and presented us with a silver candelabrum.
1976 Honorary membership was conferred on The very Worshipful Bro Stanley Humbert and VW Bros His Royal Highness Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia.
26 April, 1980:
The W.M. W.Bro Robert James Davies organised a meeting of all lodges in the United Grand Lodge of England bearing the title of Royal Sussex at the Masonic Hall, Old Orchard Street, Bath. It is believed this was the first time such a meeting has taken place.
1983 The United Grand Lodge of England recognised the Royal Sussex Lodge’s practice of our Stewards wearing red collars.
1986 The IPM, WM and the SW donated six candelabra to illuminate the after proceedings at the dining table.
1987, 16th May:
The Lodge banner was restored at a cost of £300, being fully met by donations of the brethren of the Lodge.
175th Anniversary of the Lodge
From this necessary short history it will be seen that like many other Lodges the Royal Sussex has not been without adversities, especially in its earlier years, but while preserving a characteristic independence it has been ever ready to face up to the responsibilities which rightly fall to one of the oldest Lodges in the Province, and to work in harmonious relationship with the other Craft Lodges in Bath.
A typical example of this is the Lodge of Instruction which is run jointly for the proved benefit of the younger brethren of the Lodge of Honour and the Royal Sussex Lodge. Thereby maintaining our assurance of 1825 of co-operation in everything tending to the benefit of Masonry.
Members of the Royal Sussex Lodge are rightly proud of, and give grateful thanks for the labours of those who have gone before and made it possible for us to enjoy the undoubted privilege and the joy of heritage of this wonderful Lodge.
10th March, 2005:
Royal Sussex Lodge hosted the rededication of Masonic Temple after extensive alterations to the basement. The ceremony of rededication was presided over by The Provincial Grand Master RW Bro David L. Jenkins and the rest of the Provincial team. All the other Lodges in Bath were represented by their Masters, Offices and Brethren.